Fußball is back!
Der Klassiker is upon us on Saturday evening as Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich contest the DFL Super Cup for the fifth time since 2012. Having combined to win 20 of the past 24 Bundesliga titles, there is no love lost between Germany’s most bitter rivals, especially with early bragging rights and a trophy on the line.
Dortmund enjoy home advantage at the Signal Iduna Park against a Bayern side that have been embarrassed during a troubled pre-season. With prodigal son Mario Götze returning from a lengthy injury, Peter Bosz taking over at Dortmund and both sides nursing injuries to important players, there is plenty to ponder before kick-off.
As Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke succinctly summed it up: “When Borussia Dortmund face Bayern Munich, it’s an important match. The whole football world watches. There are no friendlies between rivals.”
Mario Götze is back
Dortmund’s prodigal son entered the youth academy as an eight-year-old and was part of the title wins in 2010/11 and 2011/12. The temptation to join the dark side proved too hard to resist however, Götze joining rivals Bayern in 2013 where he spent three seasons and scored the winning goal for Germany at the 2014 World Cup.
Returning to Dortmund last season, Götze expressed his regret at leaving and acknowledged that he would work hard to win over many of the supporters that previously christened him ‘Judas’. The comeback looked on track after Götze provided the assist in a 1–0 victory against Bayern in November, but his season ended in January after he was diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder.
Recently returning to training and taking part during pre-season, the 25-year-old knows it will take time to get back to his best but recently told kicker: “The metabolic disturbances are now part of my life. I am happy to be back and to be able to do what I love.” Most football supporters will be happy to see Götze back on the pitch and will be wishing him well, there is no doubt he can play a vital role for Dortmund on Saturday.
Who’s the Bosz?
The 53-year-old Dutch tactician succeeds Thomas Tuchel in an attempt to continue the high octane gegenpressing brand of football that Dortmund have specialised in since Jurgen Klopp’s reign. Bosz moves to Germany after one season in charge at Ajax, the Amsterdam club finishing runners-up to Feyenoord in the Eredivisie and losing against Manchester United in the Europa League final.
Dortmund had no hesitation paying Ajax €5m to secure Bosz’s signature, as sporting director Michael Zorc commented: “First and foremost, we’re convinced with Peter’s coaching philosophy which is similar to the style we and our fans want to see. Peter’s coaching philosophy is a very attacking minded one. A structured possession football coupled with gegenpressing. It’s a good balance. We also like that Peter Bosz is not reluctant to play young players in big games.”
The Johann Cruyff disciple has only had a matter of weeks to work with his new team, but the Super Cup provides a great platform to get off on the right foot. It’s an uphill battle to stop Bayern winning their sixth consecutive Bundesliga title, but triumph in the Super Cup on Saturday will be a huge confidence boost for Bosz and his new team.
Friendly form a worry?
Bayern Munich’s tour of Asia was lauded as success by Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, describing it as “the most effective and beautiful tour Bayern have undertaken in the last years”. He was talking about the economic and political benefits of course, as results on the pitch were far from ‘effective and beautiful’. Conceding a late equaliser against Arsenal, Bayern were thrashed by AC Milan 4-0 before Carlo Ancelotti’s men scored three early goals in a 3-2 victory against Chelsea, closing out the tour with an uninspiring 2-0 defeat against Inter.
Bayern returned home to compete in the annual Audi Cup, but any hopes of improvement were quickly extinguished. Liverpool were completely dominant in the opening game, embarrassing the German champions in a 3-0 defeat before Ancelotti virtually condeded against a hungry Napoli side, selecting a team full of teenagers and losing 2-0. The common denominators in Bayern’s defeats were disjointed, aimless and slow build up play with a worrying vulnerability on the counter-attack.
“Of course, we are worried,” Ancelotti said at the Liverpool match. “These are hard games, but we knew that we are not in the best condition now. We will surely be in better condition on Saturday. I also have to say we have to change our attitude and spirit.” Dortmund’s pre-season wasn’t spectacular, and the importance of friendly games can be discounted, but there is no doubt Bayern need to improve on Saturday, as there are surely no better exponents of the counter-attack than Borussia Dortmund.
Injuries a factor?
Ancelotti has a few injury concerns to contend with. Manuel Neuer continues to recover from a broken foot, Juan Bernat recovering from surgery after an injury sustained against AC Milan. Arjen Robben and Jérôme Boateng didn’t travel to Asia or feature in the Audi Cup and are unlikely to be risked on Saturday.
David Alaba, Thiago Alcántara and James Rodriguez all started against Liverpool but were withdrawn and are queries. Alaba is most likely to feature on Saturday, but James faces four weeks out with a hamstring issue and Thiago will miss the Super Cup with an abdominal muscle injury. With the injured players mentioned and Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm both retiring, Ancelotti faces a few dilemmas as he attempts to replace their experience with new additions.
Bosz has injury problems of his own to contend with, Marco Reus and Julian Weigl long term casualties while the left-back position could be a problem with Marcel Schmelzer and Raphaël Guerreiro both out. The full-back options are further limited with Erik Durm carrying a hip problem.
After conceding 14 goals in six pre-season games, Ancelotti and his coaching staff saw many worrying signs and would be busy attempting to rectify them on the training pitch. Rafinha has been particularly awful at right-back but singling him out might be unfair with Bayern’s collective defensive organisation largely anonymous.
Manuel Neuer’s importance cannot be understated with Jérôme Boateng’s speed a vital component in Bayern’s defence. Mats Hummels and Javi Martínez are both exceptional anticipators, but their lack of pace will continue to be exploited without sufficient cover from Bayern’s full-backs and defensive midfielders.
Joshua Kimmich will replace Rafinha and provide more stability and dynamism, but part of Bayern’s problems as previously mentioned is preventing counter-attacks. This could be where the retirements of veterans Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm are significant, their ability to read situations and organise those around them unable to be replaced.
Borussia Dortmund have the perfect opportunity to exploit Bayern’s recent defensive deficiencies and punish their rivals in front of a fanatical home crowd. Bayern showed a inability to stop Liverpool’s swift attackers and should find Dortmund’s forwards similarly difficult to nullify.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembélé are Dortmund’s two main threats while Mario Götze will play some part and could be a difference maker. I think they can get the job done at home.